Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

El trabajo en gobernabilidad y transparencia – una visión desde Etiopía

Gulilat Birhane, la persona focal en Etiopía del programa de gobernabilidad y transparencia impulsado conjuntamente por WaterAid y FAN, nos cuenta sobre los desafíos que enfrenta – especialmente debido a la forma en que el gobierno clasifica a las organizaciones de la sociedad civil para restringir sus ámbitos de influencia – y lo que se ha logrado hasta ahora.

Photo: Gulilat at the Africa regional governance and transparency meeting takes time out from the learning market.

As the Ethiopia focal point, I am responsible for the planning, monitoring and supporting our partner to achieve their governance and transparency objectives. One of our biggest challenges this year has been staff turnover – we lost the programme coordinator for our partner, the Water and Sanitation Forum (WSF) which is hosted by Consortium for Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA).  We also struggle to ensure that there is priority for this programme which only receives a small amount of funding compared to other programmes of work.

Our biggest challenge however, has been that this work is directly linked to the Charities  and Societies Proclamation passed in February 2009 by the Ethiopian government. This legislation divides CSOs into three groups: International non-governmental organizations (INGOs), Ethiopian resident organizations and local CBOs. INGOs and Ethiopian resident NGOs are restricted from working on human rights issues or politically sensitive issues – with the government calls ‘red line areas’ – and this limits some of our work.

We have still been able to have big successes though. We developed an engagement strategy for the WSF to engage more members and build the network and we provided trainings for member institutions in policy, advocacy and networking. The impact of this training has been that those trained have prepared the annual CSO WASH report – the first report of its kind in Ethiopia.

Within this report one of the things that came out is that 41 NGOs and CSOs are reaching more than two million people with water supply, sanitation and capacity building. In Ethiopia we have a low level of service provision so this work in service delivery form NGOs and CSOs is huge in terms of our country development goals.

By showing the government through our report what we are able to achieve we created space for partnership and sharing best practices. In July of last year we organized 20 CSOs to meet with and share best practices with the government. The director of the Charities and Societies Agency, a representative from ministry of justice, a representative from the ministry of finance and economic development, as well as religious leaders all attended and they promised to support CSOs in the WASH sector to create an enabling environment for continued dialogue and greater implementation.

This year we will follow up on those successes by developing an influencing strategy. Our engagement strategy and trainings gave us strong members, our strong members gave us evidence based research, our research gave us a dialogue with the government and now we are ready to continue to put our members into action for further influencing the governance agenda through organised participation. We will also share lessons from our engagement strategy support our members and others to support them to be successful in this kind of work.  

None of this would have been possible without having the time and resources to focus on the governance agenda and I am looking forward to our future progress.



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